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Basic Calculation for Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures

Two calculations, in conjunction with the type of event being held, need to be used to establish the
number of persons the hall will accommodate and evacuate safely:

(1) Exit Capacity, which is the number and width sizes of exit doors and the time it would take for
persons to pass through them.

(2) Occupant Capacity, which is the capacity of the hall in relation to its size and type of event
being held.

Both calculations need to be undertaken with the lower number calculated used as the maximum
occupancy figure.

Designated fire exits should be as widely spaced as possible so as to allow occupants to turn their
backs on the fire and to proceed in the opposite direction to a place of safety. Exits from the
premise should lead via distinct and separate routes; a number of exits that discharge into a
common area cannot be regarded as alternative to each other. In all but the smallest premises a
minimum of two well-spaced exits are normally required.

Fire exit separation is generally defined by the 45-degree rule. If from any point in a room, two
exits cannot be included within a 45-degree angle, then they may be viewed as being well
separated. If from any point in a room, two exits can be included within a 45-degree angle, then
they are not well separated. In other words the two exits must be far enough apart so that a fire
could not make them both unusable.

The example calculations set out below are relevant to premises of a good standard of
construction, with sound foundations supporting walls of block, brick, stone, or modern insulated
treated wood construction, supporting a substantial roof of traditional construction.

The internal walls, floors and ceilings are to be sound, and covered by non-combustible surface
coverings. Doors should be substantial and well fitting. The services and equipment should be to
the required certificated standards, being tested and maintained.

Should the premises not be to these standards it may be necessary to assess that a fire could
spread through the premises more quickly, therefore the time given for the evacuation of persons
could be reduced. A reduction in the time to evacuate a premises or room will effect the overall
occupancy limit provided.

With this in mind a premises with less than an adequate standard of construction should have the
occupancies restricted by as much as 20% from the calculations shown below.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 1 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Safe Occupancy Rules
In order for the capacities to be correctly calculated there are a number of rules that must be
followed:

Rule 1
Any calculation should allow for a complete evacuation of the hall directly to the outside within 2½
minutes.

Rule 2
All exit doors must allow at least 40 people to exit within 1 minute.

Rule 3
The minimum width of an exit door should be no less than 0.750m. Door widths less than 0.750m
should not be included in any calculation.

Rule 4
Exit doors that do not lead directly to the outside must not be used in the calculation except the
main entrance door, which can be used.

Rule 5
When calculating the exit capacity it must be assumed that during a fire situation the fire will block
one door. As there is no way of determining which door will be affected, in the interest of public
safety it must assumed that this will be the largest door, therefore you have to exclude the largest
exit width (door) when making the calculation.

Rule 6
Where there is only 1 exit/access point, you are limited to a maximum of 60 people, irrespective of
floor size, exit width or hall use. This figure is reduced if the occupancy capacity is lower than 60.

Rule 7
Always round part figures down e.g. 385.3 would be rounded down to 385.

Rule 8
Both calculations must be undertaken with the lower number calculated used as the maximum
occupancy figure.

Rule 9
Premises with less than an adequate standard of construction should have the occupancies
restricted by up to 20%.

Rule 10
Revolving or sliding doors should not be considered in the calculation of available exit widths

Rule 11
Exits must be well separated. In this context ‘well separated’ is taken to mean that two exits are
far enough apart so that a fire could not make them unusable. However it should be noted that
the 45-degree rule would always apply with respect to separation of fire exits.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 2 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Rule 12
An external exit door in a corridor can be used providing, that it is a final exit door, leads to a place
of safety and is opposite the hall door, this door should be the one used in the calculation not the
hall door.

Rule 13
Fire exits must never be locked. All exit doors should be easily opened from within, must never
require a key to open and open in the direction of escape.

Rule 14
Final exits should lead to a place of ultimate safety i.e. not an enclosed yard or garden.

Rule 15
Exit doors that may be utilised by wheelchair users require a minimum width of not less than
900mm

Rule 16
Travel distances to a final exit should not exceed 18metres in one direction or 45metres where an
alternative is provided.

Rule 17
An Evacuation route from a hall through a kitchen area cannot be considered, as these areas are
not a ‘protected escape route’ and can be extremely hazardous.

Rule 18
In a hall with a stage, whether fixed or portable, the stage should be calculated separately.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 3 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Calculating the Exit Capacity
To establish the number of persons the hall will accommodate in relation to the number of exit
doors (i.e. the exit capacity) the following steps must be carried out:

 Measure and add together the widths of all the exit doors (in metres):

 Divide by 0.750m (minimum single door width):

 Multiply by 40 (maximum number of persons exiting per minute): and;

 Multiply by 2.5 (minutes to evacuate).

Example 1

The hall has 5 final exit doors, each door width measures:
(Remember! Any door less than 0.750m wide should not be included in the calculation)

Exit Door 1 1.0m


Exit Door 2 0.65m
Exit Door 3 0.75m
Exit Door 4 1.0m
Exit Door 5 1.14m

Exit Door 2 is less than 0.750m wide and must be excluded under Rule 3 above.
Exit Door 5 is the largest exit door and must be excluded under Rule 5 above.

This leaves:

Exit Door 1 1.0m


Exit Door 3 0.75m
Exit Door 4 1.0m

2.75m ÷ 0.750 = 3.6 x 40 = 144 x 2.5 = 360 persons

Total exit capacity = 360 persons

This example does not take into consideration the size of the hall and therefore the exit capacity
could exceed the occupant capacity of the hall. To ensure the occupancy is not being exceeded
an occupant capacity calculation is required.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 4 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Calculating the Occupant capacity
This is related to hall size and density of people within the available floor space)

When the hall is in use an occupant load factor value (m² per person) is introduced, in relation to
the floor area being used.

Various events, such as discos, conferences, dining facilities etc. will have different load factor
values. See table below for occupant load factors.

The calculation, therefore, is the size of the hall (in square metres) divided by the occupant load
factor.

Example 2

The same hall, as in example 1, is 16m long by 9m wide and a school intends holding a disco,
without any tables, chairs etc.

16m x 9m = 144m². Divide by the occupant load factor for discos, which is 0.5.

144 ÷ 0.5 = 288

Total occupant capacity = 288 persons

The occupant capacity of 288 shown in example 2 is less than the exit capacity of 360 shown in
example 1; therefore, the lower figure must be used.

So in this case, the maximum number of persons allowed for the school disco would be
288, the occupant capacity.

Occupant Load factor table

Use of Hall / Room m² per person

Area for standing 0.3


Amusement arcade, assembly hall, bingo hall, club
concourse, crush hall, dance hall, pop concert, queuing 0.5
area etc
Bar 0.3 – 0.5 *
Bowling alley, billiard room, games & sporting activities 9.3
Conferences, dining room, restaurant etc 1.0 – 1.5 *
Studio (radio, film, television, recording) 1.4
Common room e.g. lounge, reading room, staff room,
1.0
waiting room

* Depending upon amount of seating and tables to be provided

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 5 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Example 3

In this example the hall for the disco increases in size to 20m x 10m with fire exit doors the same
as in example 1.

20m x 10m = 200m². Divide by the occupant load factor for discos, which is 0.5.

200 ÷ 0.5 = 400

Total occupant capacity = 400 persons

The occupant capacity of 400 shown in example 3 is greater than the exit capacity of 360 shown
in example 1; therefore, the lower figure must be used.

So in this case, the maximum number of persons allowed for the school disco would be
360, the exit capacity.

Example 4

The same Hall in example 3 is now to be used for a ‘Christmas dinner’, which will require bench
style tables and chairs, gangways between etc.

20m x 10m = 200m². Divide by the occupant load factor for dining rooms with high levels of
seating, which is 1.5.

200 ÷ 1.5 = 133.3

This total must be rounded down under Rule 7

Therefore the total occupant capacity = 133 persons

The occupant capacity of 133 shown in example 3 is lower than the exit capacity of 360 shown in
example 1; therefore, the lower figure must be used.

So in this case, the maximum number of persons allowed for the Christmas dinner would
be 133, the occupant capacity.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 6 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
Aisle and Gangways
Depending on the location of the emergency exits, seating may need to be reduced to ensure
aisles and gangways widths are maintained. Aisle and gangways should be at least 1.05m wide.
Where tables and chairs are used there should be at least 1.5m between the backs of chairs of
opposing tables.

The layout of any tables, chairs equipment, etc, must be such to prevent exit doors from being
blocked or obstructed. This is usually achieved by having a minimum clear space on either side
and in front of the door of not less than the aisle width.

Rows of Seats
Rows of seats should consist of no less than 7 seats and no more than 17 with an aisle at each
end. Rows with an aisle only at one end should not exceed 4 seats. Ideally, all seats should be
fixed to the floor, where this is not possible they should be tied or linked together. This can be
achieved using plastic cable ties around the legs of adjacent chairs or wooden battens fixed to the
back of the chairs. Chairs at tables do not require fixing.

Where rows of seats are not fixed to the floor nor do they have arms, there should be a minimum
of 450mm between the back of the seat and the front of the one immediately behind it.

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 7 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013
All Seated Audience
FD

1.05m CS

1.05m
Seating Seating

Stage
M C
S
E

Seating Seating

CS

FD
Legend: FD = Fire Door, ME = Main Entrance, CS = Clear Space

School Disco with Tables & Chairs and Dance Floor


M.E.

CS

TC T TC TC
T
1.5m
C
T
1.5m C

DANCE FLOOR

F C
D C F
S
S D

STAGE

Legend:
FD = Fire Door, ME = Main Entrance, T or TC = Tables & Chairs, CS = Clear Space

Guidance on the Basic Calculation for 8 Issued by the


Hall / Room Safe Occupancy Figures Safety Section
June 2013

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